Shaun Harper, professor in the Graduate School of Education and the departments of Africana Studies and Gender Studies, will be leaving Penn to launch the University of Southern California Center on Race & Equity as executive director.
USC’s center is designed to continue and expand on the kind of work Harper did at Penn, which involved a decade-long research project on race and education across U.S. schools and universities. He joined the GSE faculty in 2007 and founded the GSE Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education in 2011.
Together with his colleagues, Harper conducted more than 40 on-campus climate studies as university administrators across the country sought advice on handling racial tensions on campuses. In the immediate aftermath of the student protests at Yale and the University of Missouri in 2015, the Center for the Study of Race & Equity created a virtual Penn Summit Series speaker event that over 10,000 faculty members from U.S. colleges and universities participated in.
“Although this is a huge loss for Penn and GSE, this is a wonderful opportunity for Shaun to return to his former academic home and favorite city," wrote Graduate School of Education Dean Pam Grossman in a email to GSE students, staff and faculty on Sunday. "While we will all be sad to see him go, I want to wish Shaun the very best in his new endeavors.”
Harper’s vision for the USC Center on Race & Equity focuses on interdisciplinary study. By recruiting faculty from all 18 academic schools at USC, Harper hopes to study racial inequity from multiple perspectives, rather than looking at it solely through the lens of education, as was the case at Penn.
“Sometimes, it’s not just what’s happening in schools or in universities," he said. "The problem [of racial inequity] could also be the intersection of policing, health inequities and economic inequities."
Harper’s return to his favorite city, Los Angeles, marks a homecoming. Harper started his faculty career at USC as an assistant professor of clinical education at the Rossier School of Education, where he received his first Professor of the Year award for Outstanding Teaching.
“USC really gave flight to my career, it was very much launched there with lots of support,” Harper told the Daily Pennsylvanian. “I also feel a sense of home and community in L.A that I just don’t know I’m going to be able to find anywhere else. I’m very excited about moving back and living in the same place as my best friends.”
Among his achievements at Penn, Harper said that he is most proud to have been the faculty advisor of Black Men United, an undergraduate student group at Penn.
“I am really most proud of the student group I’ve been so blessed and fortunate to advise during my decade here,” Harper said. “Those guys and the relationships I’ve built with them and sustained will always keep me connected to Penn.”